Class of 2022 — ‘I hear compassion, I hear courage, I hear passion, I hear leadership’

May 16, 2022  //  FOUND IN: News, ,

In a rite of passage for U-M doctors-to-be, each May the medical school hosts a commencement ceremony for its graduating seniors. In 2020 and 2021, the lights of Hill Auditorium went dark as the school pivoted to a virtual celebration to keep participants safe during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Friday, graduates and their families and friends celebrated a return to Hill and its hallowed stage, which 162 students traversed one-by-one to receive their diplomas and officially become doctors and, for some, physician-scientists.

The speakers reflected on how the graduates have been affected by a once-in-a-generation pandemic. However, they also acknowledged how the events of the last two years had steeled the Class of 2022 and, ultimately, will make them better caregivers and scientists.

“Indeed, these past few years we have been tested, as health care trainees, health care professionals and as people,” said U-M Medical School Dean Marschall S. Runge, M.D., Ph.D. “You are entering your residency at a time when paradigms will change, new innovations will be needed and forward thinking will be a game changer.”

Runge added that innovation in health care will bring others from many disciplines into the graduates’ daily work — including nurses, pharmacists and physical therapists, but also engineers, social workers, policy makers and data analysts. In residency, he encouraged graduates to embrace ideas and viewpoints of others who have different skills. They will only complement their expertise, and together form care teams that will provide better, more compassionate care for patients.

“Medicine is rewarding; it is challenging,” Runge said, before reminding U-M’s newest doctors and scientists: “When you keep the health of patients, and of yourselves, first, there will be far more joy than heartache.”

Executive Vice Dean for Academic Affairs and Michigan Medicine Chief Academic Officer Debra F. Weinstein, M.D., attended her first commencement ceremony since coming to Michigan in late 2021.

“Many of you have dreamed of this since you were young, and all of you have worked so hard toward this day, pushing through fatigue, addressing uncertainty, coping with fear, overcoming inevitable bouts of self-doubt,” she said. “Medical school is challenging in the best of times, but your path through medical school has involved significant unforeseen challenges as we’ve faced the greatest health care challenge of our time.

“Thank you for standing together, working alongside our Michigan Medicine and university communities. Individually, you will make a difference for each patient that you treat, each family that you meet, each new discovery you make, and each colleague that you assist or teach. Collectively, as leaders, you will shape a better, stronger and more equitable future for health care and medicine.”

Erica Odukoya, the Class of 2022 student speaker, addressed her fellow graduates about “The Tools of Medicine,” including communication through listening. She did so through a conversation directed toward her 15-month-old nephew, Raleke Akinola Lotanna Boluwatito Adibe, Jr.

Hearing, she said, gives way to the helping and the healing.

“Class of 2022, you don’t sound like your trials, your failures, your pandemics, because you were not born to them. You sound like the Leaders; you sound like the Best. You sound like you came from the University of Michigan Medical School. When I hear you, I hear compassion, I hear courage, I hear passion, I hear leadership. I hear you.”

Physician, educator, health equity advocate and U-M alumna Joia Mukherjee, M.D., M.P.H., delivered the main commencement address. She is chief medical officer for Partners in Health and an associate professor at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

“The medical science we witnessed was breathtaking — the rapid understanding of the virus, the host response, the immunology, and the translation of that knowledge into vaccines and therapeutics. Bench to bedside at its finest,” Mukherjee said.

“For the rest of your life, you will take the knowledge and skills you have learned here and shape your practice. I have no doubt you will be brilliant doctors, capable of curing disease, discovering new therapies, setting broken bones,” Mukherjee said. “But whatever path you take in medicine, choose proximity … and develop your own opening for your journey with your patients. Proximity will help you think about the whole person before you, an analysis of their struggles will help you work with them and others to find potential remedies. In developing your unique art of medical practice, the canvas of your life — your talents, your passions, and your approach — will transform you from a doctor to a healer.”            

During the awards portion of the ceremony, Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology Adam D. Baruch, M.D., received the Senior Award, given to a faculty member of who, in the view of the graduating class, best exemplifies the ideals of the teacher-clinician. Jennie DeBlanc received the Academic Achievement Award, given to the senior who has attained the highest record of academic achievement throughout medical school.

After the diplomas were distributed, Interim Associate Dean for Medical Student Education Steven E. Gay, M.D., M.S., presented the 172nd class of graduates. Runge then led the Class of 2022 in reciting the Hippocratic Oath and Weinstein closed the festivities by inviting attendees to sing “The Yellow and Blue” and “The Victors.” Mukherjee, a 1985 graduate of the U-M, led the graduates in singing both songs.

Check out the YouTube video below to watch the ceremony!

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